Telling her story in Feminists for Life’s magazine “The American Feminist,” FFL Speaker Joyce McCauley-Benner says she was a college student working at a restaurant when a co-worker raped her. Later, suspecting she was pregnant, McCauley-Benner went to her campus health center for a test. The test was positive. She says, “I begged [the nurse] to tell me what to do.” But she got no guidance: “She told me to take a prenatal vitamin, find a doctor, and be on my way. That was it.”
A pregnancy resource center could have helped McCauley-Benner, but she didn’t know of their existence. Instead, she tried to cope on her own. One nagging question troubled her: who was the father of the baby? Her rapist or the man she had been dating? She writes:
Was the cook [the rapist] this baby’s dad? Some jerk who hurt me, for fun, in spiteful laughter, as he, when he was done, said “see ya round, bitch”?…
Or did this baby belong to me and to my boyfriend, whom I loved deeply, who had been with me in loving times and fun-filled moments?
Since a paternity test couldn’t be done until the baby was born, there was no way for her to know. So McCauley-Benner considered abortion as a way out of her situation:
Did I think about abortion? Sure. I wanted so badly for the pain to go away, the unknowing, but even abortion wouldn’t put the question of paternity to an end.
And I still didn’t know what to do. I was in a new town, no family, few friends close by, no health insurance, and not a clue how to take care of myself during pregnancy.
The turning point came when she had a conversation with a friend:
One day, during a desperate call to a friend from home, I went over my so-called choices. She made a comment to me, “I know you are feeling overwhelmed with sadness and pain and despair right now, but just know, no single feeling lasts forever. An abortion will.” That hit me like a ton of bricks.
Upon deeper reflection, I realized that while I did not know who the father of my baby was yet, I did know who his mother was. And that was me. There was as much of me inside this baby as there was the rapist, or my boyfriend. How could I allow yet another piece of me to be taken away?…
So I moved back home and had my baby boy.
Years later, she has no regrets:
In my son’s tender eyes and hands I saw that part of me: fragile, needing love and support, but also full of life…
When I chose single motherhood, it was hard. Finding resources and returning to my hometown college were challenging. But I persevered through it all and tapped into a strength within myself I never knew I had. We, as women, can sell ourselves short sometimes. Some parts of society will tell us we can’t do it, we shouldn’t do it, or force us to choose between our dreams as women and our desires as mothers.
But I am here to tell you, women deserve better choices than that.
McCauley-Benner doesn’t say whether she had a paternity test and, if so, what it found. She says after she gave birth, the identity of her son’s biological father no longer concerned her. She loves her son, and no longer cares whether the rapist was his biological father.
Source: “Joyce McCauley – Benner” The American Feminist 2012, pgs 10-11
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